Siro's, the bar/restaurant located next-door to the Saratoga Race Course was the site of the party as a few hundred folks braved the damp and chilly weather Monday afternoon to celebrate the 2003 Kentucky Derby victory by Funny Cide. The talented 3YO gelding is the first NY-bred to win the prestigious fixture. He is owned by Sackatoga Stables, a group of high-school buddies headed by Jack Knowlton of Saratoga Springs. The local connection goes even deeper -- Funny Cide was born and raised at McMahon of Saratoga, which is located just outside of the Spa City.
The local media was out in full force covering the event as area racing fans had a great time celebrating the hometown heroes for "bringing home the trophy" -- with hopes that a couple more victories are in the works over the next four weeks.
The crowd was full of well-known faces including Saratoga's own Marylou Whitney (her filly Birdtown captured the Kentucky Oaks on the day before the Derby). Also, among those present: Eclipse-winning photog Barbara Livingston, trainer H James Bond, and msnbc.com contributor John Pricci.
The focus of attention though was on the men and women who contributed to the success of Funny Cide. Jack Knowlton and the Sackatoga Stable participants. Trainer Barclay Tagg and his team. And the gang from McMahon at Saratoga. Most of these folks were in attendance Monday and were obviously thrilled with the throng of well-wisher who congratulated the team, purchased Funny Cide T-shirts and caps, and waited patiently for autographs.
Unfortunately jockey Jose Santos was unable to attend even though rumors of his arrival swirled. His wife and kids enjoyed themselves however. The kids were intrigued by the lawn jockey out front which was "wearing" Funny Cide's silks. They also mingled through the crowd and even signed a few autographs of their own!
The evening culminated with a brief ceremony which was kicked off with a rousing rendition of "On the Funny Cide of the Street", a clever re-do of "On the Sunny Side of the Street" by a local DJ, which had the crowd applauding with approval at every mention of the local hero's name -- and jeering, in good fun, at every mention of his vanquished rivals.
Saratoga Springs Mayor Ken Klotz then read a proclamation honoring the achievements of the Funny Cide team. And it was announced that the intersection of Union and East Avenues, just outside of the racetrack, would by re-named in honor of Funny Cide and Birdtown.
Jack Knowlton and Barclay Tagg both stepped to the podium and said a few words to the crowd -- and were greeted with raucous applause when mention was made of the upcoming Preakness and of plans to bring the Funny Cide to race in Saratoga later in the year and, hopefully, for many years thereafter. (Fleeting mention was also made of the unfortunate Kentucky hearing Monday morning but was quickly dismissed in favor of more appropriate comments in light of the celebratory mood of the crowd and the speakers.)
All in all it was a wonderful evening of celebration and congratulations for the horse and the humans that brought the Derby trophy to NY state and Saratoga Springs.
And finally, as the proceedings wrapped up a rainbow appeared in the sky -- perhaps an omen of things to come...
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